Meet Miss Amanda: After-school program cook (video)
Written by Haley Earley, manager of donor offers for The Salvation Army Northern Division
(Watch video) – Every Monday through Thursday at the Payne Ave. Salvation Army in St. Paul, mobs of kids skip through the cafeteria and eagerly call to Amanda Kenney, “What are we having? What are we having?”
From inside the kitchen, Kenney always hollers back the same response: “Something good!”
Kenney works as a cook at the Payne Ave. Salvation Army, where she prepares hot meals for dozens of kids enrolled in the after-school program (see related story). All of her delicious and nutritious meals include vegetables, fruit, grains, and meat.
Kenney serves the food in generous portions, for an important reason: Some of the kids go home to empty cupboards.
“This might be their only meal for the night,” Kenney said.
The children know her as Miss Amanda. They love her because of her smile and the yummy food she makes. They respect her because she used to be one of them. Now 26, Amanda grew up attending the same after-school program starting at age 8.
“It’s a great program,” said Kenney, who continued in the after-school program as a volunteer through high school after she outgrew the program. “It helps the community and it helps the children get on the right track. Many families don’t have access to the same support at home that The Salvation Army offers.”
Kenney and her family depended on that same support while she was growing up. Her parents worked long hours. They couldn’t always be home to care for her, and they couldn’t afford expensive childcare.
Today, most of the kids Kenney serves are in the same situation. But thanks to The Salvation Army and its supporters, the children have a safe and productive place to go after school.
“The after-school program is a place to get homework done, get some food, and enjoy being with friends in a comfortable environment,” Kenney said. Before the cooking job opened up, Kenney had been working at a school cafeteria. She jumped at the chance to work for The Salvation Army because she knew her impact would extend beyond the food she made.